I enjoy the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ve seen all twenty-one movies from Marvel Studios and I think most of them are pretty decent. Some of them, like James Gunn’s two– and counting– Guardians of the Galaxy films, almost approach great. But none of them are works of art in the way that FX’s Legion is.
The Legion series, created by auteur showrunner Noah Hawley (of FX’s other masterful hour-long drama Fargo) is inspired by the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Dan Stevens (Beast in Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast) plays the title character and his unassuming alter-ego David Haller, and is surrounded by a supporting group of mutant ringers who could each hold their own in a show centered around their individual personas.
— LaughingPlace.com (@laughing_place) March 30, 2019
This past weekend I attended a Legion panel at WonderCon 2019 in Anaheim, which welcomed Hawley, Stevens, and fellow cast members Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Recreation), Rachel Keller (Fargo), Amber Midthunder (Hell or High Water), Jeremie Harries (A Walk Among the Tombstones), and Navid Negahban (of Disney’s upcoming Aladdin live-action reimagining) to enthusiastic applause. They were joined onstage by Marvel Television vice president Jeph Loeb, producer Lauren Schuler Donner (Logan), and a new costar Lauren Tsai, who plays an enigmatic character named Switch.
The panelists talked with the TV critic moderator and fielded questions from the audience, but not before screening a fifteen-minute teaser for the series’ upcoming third season, which was particularly mind-blowing and, dare I say, almost indecipherable (in a great way), even for dedicated fans of the trippy, twisty show. Unfortunately, that footage has not made its way online in any official capacity, or I would include it here. Suffice it to say we’ll have to wait until the scifi head-scratcher returns before we get a second look.
Legion is ostensibly spun off from the X-Men universe of characters, though that connection has never been outwardly obvious except for the presence of mutants and hints of who Haller’s father really is… (spoiler alert: David is the son of Professor Charler Xavier, who will finally pop up this season as played by The Theory of Everything’s Harry Lloyd). But unlike the MCU and much of Fox’s other X-Men output, the point of Legion isn’t beholden to the superhero stories before and after it. Rather, this show is very much its own challenging, very rewarding, and frequently perplexing thing.
“The story has no meaning without its ending,” said Hawley during the panel, as he discussed why this upcoming third season of Legion will be the show’s last. “The old paradigm in television is that major corporations don’t do a mic drop after success. You have to keep going and going. There’s something about being allowed to tell a complete story where the length of the show is dictated by the length of the story, which makes television better.”
The story of Legion, by the way, often defies explanation, but on the surface level it is the tale of an ex-mental patient who discovers his schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder are really symptoms of a mutant ability that would eventually make him one of the most powerful beings on Earth. But Hawley doesn’t let things rest on the surface level: he takes us inside the minds of the show’s characters, often bending space and time and even treating fans to the occasional song-and-dance number for good measure.
This is television at its most cinematic, and while the MCU has sometimes felt like one long, periodically artless TV show to me, Legion transcends its superhero roots and represents the best of three worlds: the grandiose opera of comic books, the limitless visual medium that is cinema, and the heavily serialized nature that best fits stories told on the small screen. It’s a show that’s difficult to put into a box, but I’m glad that box sits on a table in my living room.
Legion is currently set to return for its third and final season on FX in June.
Mike serves as Laughing Place’s lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly “Who’s the Bossk?” Star Wars podcast. He’s been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general since a very young age and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.